Posted on March 23, 2011
by Orit Plotkin
In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, we learn about the special clothing that the Kohen Gadol wears. Although this is the main aspect of the parsha, there is another very important idea that is learned from this parsha, of giving people the proper respect that thay deserve.
If you read into this portion you will notice something very strange. The very opening verse (27:20) begins with “And you command the children of Israel.” Who is this “you”? Moses? From the time of Moses’s birth, as recorded in the Bible, through the entire book of Exodus, this is the only parsha that Moses’s name does not appear.
Why is Moses’s name missing?
One answer given is that this portion is usually read on or around the seventh of Adar. According to tradition, the seventh of Adar is Moses’s yarzheit. He died on the seventh of Adar. Since Moses disappeared, if you will, from the face of the world on the seventh of Adar, he disappears from the Torah.
The other reason given for the absence of Moses’s name is that Moses was angry with God. In 32:31 and on, we see that after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses intercedes for the people. He does this after the killing of the worst offenders. Moses says to God with a certain amount of chutzpah,”Yet now if you will forgive their sin… and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of the book which you have written.” This is a blatant threat from Moses to God. Here Moses was only doing what he thought what was right; he was willing to sacrifice himself for the people, although it was done in a disrespectful manner. Moses lost a sense of “derech eretz,” as a result of all his fiery emotions. He “forgot” with whom he was speaking and took liberties that he was not allowed to. This all results in the absence of Moses’s name from the portion.
We learn from here that no matter how angry we get, how justified our cause, we have to remember respect, for God and for all people. You may be angry with your teacher, rabbi, doctor, but all positions are entitled to be maintained with a certain degree of respect. Too often this idea of respect is lost in our every day lives. A certain degree of formality is important to be maintained, not for the ego of the indidvidual, but for the respect of the institution.